The library's Archival & Special Collections is home to more than twenty-five thousand rare books that range from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.
What makes a book rare in the McLaughlin Library?
Many older books are notable for their significance in terms of:
- Subject matter
- Their scarcity
- The imprint or date of publication (age)
- Perhaps their physical characteristics, condition or binding, or
- Ownership or association (a book or collection may have been signed or annotated by a particular author or collected by a notable person in a subject field)
Of course, these factors are subjective and the designation as "rare" sometimes is bestowed in terms of market value!
Although age is not necessarily a determining factor, most of our rare books were printed before 1850, with Canadian imprints usually extended to 1900. There are always exceptions, but these are limited in number. One collection, on John Galt, is related to the foundation of Guelph in 1827 and contains a number of twentieth century items.
Over the years, Guelph has developed particular areas of interest.
There are many Scottish history books and collections on:
- Scottish emigration
- Scottish chapbooks
- The Jacobites
- Scottish religion (especially the Disruption period)
- The Foulis Press collection — notable books printed by the Foulis brothers, Robert and Andrew in mid-eighteenth century Glasgow
Notable works on agricultural history and veterinary medicine are, of course, focal points. The holdings on apiculture consist of more than 800 rare items and we have more than three hundred books related to the history of veterinary medicine as well as significant holdings in botany, horticulture, gardening, and landscape architecture before 1900. The general history of agriculture equipment and everyday rural living, especially in Canada, is equally well represented.
|Burton Noble Gates Collection||Materials related to the study of apiculture.||Pre-1930|
|Disruption Records||Includes addresses, letters, declarations, notices, circulars, reports, and statements.||1840-1873|
|John Galt Collection||Scottish author and first Superintendent (1826-1829) of the Canada Company.||1785-2013|
|Scottish Chapbook Collection||Chapbooks in Scotland were usually small pamphlet-like books of clever remarks, folklore, stories, and songs normally costing only a few pence.|
|Una Abrahamson Collection||Collection of cookery books and social histories ranging from the 17th to 20th centuries.||1600-2000|